Baker's panel called for a follow-on study to address the issue of funding and division of labor between NOAA and NASA. Near-term, he says, NASA could take on more of the operational role carried by NOAA's National Weather Service if funds for a dedicated operational system are not forthcoming.
That is likely, committee members warned, given the current budget crunch across the U.S. government. The decadal survey report included “decision rules” for policymakers to follow as they try to wedge the appetite for expensive space and ground hardware into the dwindling budgets for the relevant agencies. While NOAA and NASA take the lion's share of responsibility for solar-weather science and forecasting, a senior Democrat on the Republican-led panel suggested the Pentagon could play—and fund—a bigger role.
“One thing that we didn't have a chance to get on the record was not just the impact to us as civilians, and the impact in this environment, but what the impacts are on our critical infrastructure that is related to national security,” says Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.).
Given the predictions of what could happen to civil society if the grid goes down, and the high cost of repairing it if it does, a military contribution to fielding a constellation of satellites able to monitor the Sun—and issue warnings as soon as possible based on models derived from the ongoing scientific research funded by NASA and the NSF—would neither be unreasonable nor particularly burdensome.
“At $5,000 to $10,000 of damage for every megawatt hour that doesn't get delivered, you don't have to prevent that many blackouts to recoup that $100 million,” says Forbes.